Maltzbier, Malta, Kinderbier, Small Beer

I used to spend time brewing my own soda. I was particularly interested in brewing from base ingredients rather than from extract, because I like the idea of being able to make stuff from scratch. But I got bored with it, or something, and put all of the ingredients and the bail-top glass bottles in the garage and sort of forgot about it.

Last October when my youngest daughter turned 11, I made some homemade root beer for her birthday party, and that was quite a hit. I did it with dry ice, extract and sugar in a 5-gallon drink cooler, and it wasn’t very fizzy, but it was birch beer instead of straight root beer, which meant it had a bit of a kick to the flavor. My older daughters weren’t very impressed because they remember me doing sodas years ago, but the youngest was fascinated. And so, eventually, I got back to making soda with yeast.

A few weeks ago, I got my ingredients back out of the garage. Some of the dry malt extract (DME) had stuck together in big lumps, but everything else was there. I made some root beer and some maltzbier, but this time instead of putting pints in bottles and letting the fizzy start there, I put the 1-gallon batches into empty 2-liter bottles. This has a number of advantages. First, I only have to wash out two bottles for each batch. Second, there’s much less guesswork when it comes to knowing whether the batch is ready to go into the fridge, since I can just feel the bottles and decide whether the bottles are firm enough to denote enough carbonation in the mix. And lastly, I have been tasked with labeling the bottles as they go into the fridge, so it’s much easier to put tape labels on the plastic bottles, and there are only two bottles per batch.

This time around, I have decided that I will make stuff from extract. I never did get a good ginger ale from ginger root (although I want to try it again), but the ginger ale from extract is nicely strong. I like the birch beer extract and even the spruce beer extract. I really like the cream soda extract. So where I had tried in the past to make stuff only from roots and vanilla beans and so forth, now a batch of soda takes only a small amount of time.

Additionally, I have decided to work on my maltzbier recipes. A quick history of small beers: there used to be very little distinction between beer and soft drinks other than the alcohol content. The same ingredients were used: malt, yeast, water and hops. But small beers had very small amounts of alcohol, and that was essentially the only distinction. Small beers are still made today, although I haven’t seen much available around here except for at the German food store. Wikipedia has this to say about Malta, which is a pretty good overview.

There are a lot of resources available on the internet for beer recipes for the home brewer, but there are very few resources for the home brewer who wants to make sodas or small beers. I’ve had to experiment a lot on my own to try to make stuff that I like a lot, and I’ve had some success. I’ve also had plenty of failures. But I wanted to document some of my successes here, just in case I ever lose my brewing notebook.

Malted Root Beer
Make root beer as described on the bottle. Typically, the recipe will call for 2-4 cups of white sugar per gallon of water. In the case of malted root beer, we’ll substitute DME for some of that sugar. I have used 2 cups of sugar and 1 pounds of DME to good result. There will be more head to the soda, and a pleasing taste of malt along with the root beer flavor. I typically use champagne yeast for these sodas.

1 pound dark DME
2 cups raw sugar or brown sugar
1 gallon water
1 teaspoon hops
1/4 teaspoon yeast

This is a sweet soda with nice hop bitterness for balance. It’s somewhat heavy, so perhaps a better winter ale.

4L water
500g dark DME
4g Cascade hops
3g Citra hops
5g Ahtanum hops
1/4 teaspoon Nottingham ale yeast

Note that I have started to move to using metric weights for the recipes, except for the yeast, which is such a tiny amount I can’t get an accurate weight on it.

Here’s the way I made this one:
Boil 2L of water. Put the hops in tea bags (to save time straining and filtering later). Add the hops so that they boil for this amount of time:
– Cascade 60 minutes
– Citra 10 minutes
– Ahtanum 3 minutes
Turn off the heat and add the DME, mixing well. Add 2L of ice water and fill the bottles, making sure to leave at least 3cm of air at the top of the bottle (it seems to aid in the yeast action). When the mix seems cool enough (what the old recipes call “blood warm”), then add the yeast to the bottles and set aside. It took less than 24 hours for the bottles to be ready for refrigeration.

This was interesting in that the tea bags were VERY full when the hop pellets were done expanding. I may need to invest in some nylon brewing bags to give the hops more room for steeping. However, it seems to have let a lot of the aromatics steep from the hops into the brew without lots of bitterness. More experimentation is needed. The resulting drink was very aromatic, but only slightly bitter. There was little sweetness remaining, so it was actually very close to what I had expected from a Small Beer. I think this one would be an excellent refreshing drink to have after a hard day of yard work.

I will add photos when I remember to take them.

Spinning update – February 2013

I keep spinning and knitting, but I don’t necessarily keep posting.  This is a catch-up posting.


EGS-Shetland-SpringBuds-spunThis is Shetland wool, spun to a 4-ply worsted weight.  I got about 180 yards from 4 ounces of wool.  I spun this on purpose to see if I can still make a worsted-weight yarn, but I still had to ply up to get there.  Top from Edgewood Garden Studios, “Spring Buds”.


FF-Romney-VineyardStroll-spunThis is Romney wool, spun to a 3-ply fingering weight yarn.  I got about 300 yards out of 4 ounces.  I played around quite a bit with the color on this on, so there are stretches that are nearly all reddish-purple, and some with only green and white strands.  Top from Fiber Fancy, “Vineyard Stroll”.
FF-Shetland-MustardAndHerbsThis is Shetland wool, spun to a light 3-ply fingering-weight yarn.  I got about 500 yards out of four ounces. Top from Fiber Fancy, “Mustard&Herbs”.
GS-Finn-MorningCoffee-spunThis is my first Finn wool, spun to a 4-ply light fingering weight. It really wants to spin thin! I got about 380 yards from 4 ounces.  Top from Gnomespun Yarn, “Morning Coffee”.
GS-Hampshire-TheDagda-spunThis is Hampshire wool, spun to a 4-ply DK-weight yarn, about 240 yards. I intentionally made this yarn a gradient yarn.  “The Dagda” from Gnomespun Yarn.
GS-Hampshire-TheDagda-hatAnd this is the hat I made from The Dagda.  I really like how the colorwork fits the finished object.
 WW-Shetland-LadyOfTheLake-spunThis is more Shetland wool (I really like Shetland), spun to a 3-ply fingering weight yarn, about 450 yards.  Top from Widdershin Woolworks, “Lady of the Lake”.
WW-Shetland-OrkneyIsles-spunAnd even more Shetland wool, spun to about 260 yards of 3-ply DK-weight yarn.  I was attempting to push this to a worsted-weight yarn, but this taught me what I needed to know when I spun the worsted-weight yarn above.  Top from Widdershin Woolworks, “Orkney Isles”.


GS-Hampshire-Rust-socksThe socks I made from the “Rust” yarn (see previous post).  The yarn is very springy and makes incredibly warm socks.  While they’re not soft in the way that Merino or Finn would be, I don’t dislike the hand of the knitted fabric at all.  I believe I will be making more downs-wool socks.
Note to myself: I don’t believe I have logged “Fiddleheads” (EGS Falkland) or “Lily Pad” (EGS Shetland), so if I find them and take pictures… yeah.  I know that I totally blew taking pictures of “Harvest” (Ali-Cat Fiber Arts Romney), and not only has that yarn been used to make a hat, the hat has since moved to its new home in Montana, so pictures are probably not happening. Bother, I think I’m getting worse at this instead of better.

Gnomespun Yarn update

I buy a lot of my spinning fiber from Dan Brewer, aka Gnomespun Yarn.  This is for a couple of reasons.

  1. I like Dan’s sense of color.  I lean towards fiber that will spin up to be lightly heathered or is at least made up of complementary colors.  This may change, as I’ve decided to work on spinning some self-striping yarn, but it’s where I’ve spent most of the past 4 years.
  2. I like that Dan provides some interesting fibers.  Merino and BFL are nice, in their place, but there are a LOT of types of sheep out there, each with its own wool characteristics.  I’ve been able to sample more of them, thanks to Dan, than I would have had he not made them available to me.
  3. I like sending my money to Dan.  I would like to meet Dan and take him out to dinner, too.  Too bad he’s way over there.  I figure it will happen one day.

In any case, all of the following yarns were spun from fiber I bought from Dan.  The first two are from the first iteration of Dan’s fiber club, which has a mythological theme.

Eos (Rambouillet – 528 yards of 3-ply light fingering)  Eos is the Greek goddess of the dawn.  My daughter, Aurora, believes that she gets this yarn by right of naming.


Changing Woman (Shetland – 364 yards (between the four colors) of 3-ply light fingering)  Changing Woman is the Navajo representation of natural cycles, especially the four seasons, which are presented below as the four colors.


Besides the club fibers, I have a few others as well.
Bluegreen Algae (Targhee – 600 yards of 3-ply light fingering)  I actually finished this one up last summer, and have already knit socks from this skein, which I gave away to my sister-in-law, Aleisha.  I didn’t remember to take pictures of the socks before I gave them away, but trust me, they are awesome.

Deep Forest Shadows (BFL – 325 yards of 4-ply worsted-weight)  I bought and spun this specifically to make a new hat for myself, before I decided that I might be done with BFL. The hat is done, and it’s a fun hat, and I really should take a picture of it.  Meanwhile, here’s the yarn.

Deep Sea (Polwarth – 344 yards of 4-ply fingering)  This was turned into a pair of gloves I keep in my truck.  I wore them all winter to keep my hands from freezing to the steering wheel.

Mahogany (Cotswold – 240 yards of 4-ply fingering)  This, like most of the rest of the yarns, has not yet been knit into anything.  I’m not sure if I like Cotswold as much as some of the other wools, but I’m also very aware that they often feel different after having been knit into something than they do just skeined up.  Maybe I’ll love it.

Moose (Exmoor Mule – 280 yards of 3-ply fingering)  Exmoor is a downs-type wool, and I’ve come to believe that I really like them a lot.  Not as easy to find prepped downs wools as one might like, though.  Dan is possibly the only seller in the US to carry Exmoor.  I just got some Exmoor Horn combed top, partly because I had so much fun spinning this one up.

Muted Autumn (Rambouillet – 280 yards of 3-ply sport-weight)  This one was a carded prep, which begged me to spin long draw instead of my usual modified short draw.  I’m not as good at that, so there are some inconsistencies, but I’m claiming that just adds to the charm of the yarn.  I have sort of gravitated to combed prep because I do like me some worsted-style yarn, but this yarn, which is more of a woolen-style, feels awfully nice and warm.

Old Gold (Dorset – 389 yards of 3-ply light fingering)  Another downs wool, which I have decided I like.  The downs wools are supposedly more resistant to felting than other wools, so that sounds right for making socks.  This yarn is in fact being knit into socks right now.  For scale, those knitting needles are 2.75mm blackthorns.

Red Wine (Shetland – 312 yards of 3-ply light fingering)  Shetland has become one of my all-time favorite’s to spin.  Like the Changing Woman fiber above, this yarn has a softer ‘hand’ than I would have expected, given that it’s not a fine wool.

Rust (Hampshire – 320 yards of 4-ply fingering)  Hampshire is a downs wool that I hadn’t heard of before Dan put some up for sale.  I snapped this right up so I could try yet another wool, and was impressed by it.  Yep, I think I like the downs wools.

Soft Moose (New England Blend – 260 yards of 4-ply heavy fingering)  The New England Blend is Dan’s Sooper Sekrit recipe.  I wasn’t expecting the finished yarn to be as fluffy or as soft as it turned out to be, given how the unspun fiber felt to me.  Dan may be a wool blending genius.


I’m getting ready for this year’s Tour de Fleece.  I’ve joined Team Nekkid Cowboy, which is all about spinning Gnomespun fibers.  I have several ready.  We’ll see how it goes.


Passing it on

My oldest daughter, Aurora, has definitely caught the knitting spirit from her dear, old dad. She’s knitting a scarf for each of her friends. She has a way to go, still, but she has the first one finished. I particularly like how she wrapped it to look like candy.

More Yarny Stuff

It has been a long time since I have posted, so I’ll try to catch up as much as I can. I know I’ve missed some of my spinning adventures, so when I notice them, I’ll post them.

The fiber from the last post (autumn squash, falkland) has been turned into a lovely pair of socks. The first picture shows the colors better, while the second picture shows the textures better.

I haven’t worn them, yet. But I’m solidly convinced that I will spin more falkland in the future.

I spun this in my office, while I was waiting on phone calls or for processes to complete, or whatever. I took it home and just barely plied it together. It’s superwash Merino, and yielded about 465 yards out of four ounces.

It will be some lovely heathered socks.  Or something.

Aurora and I tried our hand at dying some fiber.  We did cake dyes set in a crock pot with citric acid.  Here’s what it looked like dying:

Here it is drying in my office:

Here it is as a skein of yarn:

And, finally, here it is on Aurora’s hands:

That’s what she had in mind when we started, although I think she had hoped for the yellow to show more rather than morphing into a green.

I joined a fiber club, from the inestimable BrewerGnome, aka Dan. His first offering was called “Anubis”, and was dyed the black, turquoise and orange associated with Anubis. It was a new fiber for me, Wensleydale, which has a surprisingly long staple length, especially when you’ve been spinning Merino. Dan also suggested that we might try fractal spinning, so that’s what I did with it. Here’s the resulting yarn:

And here it is, almost finished as a hat. Aurora thinks it need ear flaps before it’s done.

Another project, Woodsman. Superwash BFL. I’ve already posted about the fiber, so here’s a picture of the finished object, a pair of socks which I gave away just a couple of days ago. I should have tried them on, first, because I think they’d feel wonderfully warm.

I spun some Dorset fiber, which is apparently very tough to felt. This would make it ideal for socks, of course. I should get around to that…

That should be it, for now. I do know that I’ve got more to take pictures of, but that will wait for another day.

One side note: it’s snowing today, and I’m very glad for the wool I have on my feet, on my hands and on my head.

Falkland yarn and a BFL scarf

I have set a new record (for myself) in that I spun this four ounce braid of top

Into 435 yards of 3-ply fingering weight yarn in 7 days.

Because I was having “a whale of a time” spinning it (as I wrote elsewhere), I tried to look up the characteristics of the breed. It turns out that there is no “Falkland” breed. It’s more of a location identifier than it is a breed identifier, much like the Punta wool I spun last year. As far as I can tell, the wool on the Falkland Islands from the various breeds of sheep is blended together (according to some fairly strict sets of criteria), and that’s what “Falkland wool” is.

Now, part of why I liked this so much is that is isn’t Merino, and it isn’t Romney. It has its own feel while drafting and its own hand as a finished yarn. So I hope that “Falkland wool” remains much the same as it is now–although I did read that the islanders have been introducing more Merino sheep in hopes of making the wool softer. I can only hope that this isn’t true, but market pressures probably are messing about.

In any case, I loved spinning this batch of wool, and I hope to get some more soon.

And, following up from last post, Aurora has indeed knit the BFL yarn she asked me for into a 50″ garter stitch scarf. There’s plenty left over for tassels, which she might do later on, but this is a nice picture showing the kind of drape she got from the yarn.

BFL, my frenemy

Blue-faced Leicester (BFL) is a pretty common wool for handspinners to use. It was the third type of wool I tried (after a bad experience with Corriedale and a so-so experience with Merino), and the batches I bought from Spunky Eclectic were so much more fun to spin than either the Corriedale or the Merino that I fell in love with it.

Now, with a few years of experience under my belt, I have come to understand that the Corriedale I spun first was probably overly compacted, and spending a bit of time loosening the fibers before spinning would probably have made it just fine. I still look at Corriedale with squinty eyes, but I’m willing to try spinning it again sometime in the future.

Likewise, with the Merino, it was a bit trickier than I would have liked to spin a shorter-stapled fiber, but I have spun enough of it since then that I have come to understand Merino well enough. I think it’s overused in the commercial yarn world, but the last batch I did (see my previous post) of “acorn” was a joy to spin and is one of my better yarns ever, so I can’t say I hate Merino.

But BFL… well, I might not be buying a whole lot in the future.

BFL has a longer staple, but is soft and has a bit of luster to it. Usually the long wools have more luster, so that’s no real surprise, but the fact that a really good BFL can be as soft as a middle Merino is what makes it stand out. But one of the things I’ve noticed over time is that BFL can be sticky, which has started to make me think I might be parting ways with it. I don’t like sticky fiber.

I have spun some gloriously smooth BFL, of course. The stuff I bought from Spunky Eclectic was very nice, although I didn’t keep notes back then, so I’m going by memory here. But I have purchased a bunch of BFL from various sellers and have found most of them to be sticky in at least some places.

Now, I realize that some of this might be due to the dye used on the BFL. In fact, some of the sticky patches were clearly in the darker dyed patches, so I’m pretty sure that the dye did have something to do with it. But some of them were not. In fact, one of the stickiest four ounces of BFL I every laid hands on was white, undyed commercial top. And some of the dyers are people I trust to treat the fiber right (and have had some great fiber from in the past), so I hesitate to completely blame the dye.

And thus, the pound of BFL I have in my stash may be the last batches of BFL I spin. The four 4-ounce batches may be as smooth as butter to spin, and I might change my mind at the end of the end of them, but at this point, I am bidding farewell to BFL because I just can’t trust it.

Oh, and I finished up the 7.3 ounces of this BFL. A nice 4-ply worsted-weight yarn at around 320 yards, and it’s a very soft and squishy yarn–but oh, was it sticky in places to spin.

Aurora and I have already wound it into balls so she can knit it into a scarf for herself. I can’t wait to see how that works out.

Fiber update

I didn’t finish the yarn from my last post in time for the February challenge (has it really been that long since I posted?) but I did finish it. Yarn is here:

It’s about 375 yards, so that should be enough for a pair of socks. My wife wants me to make some for her sister, so now I’m just waiting for foot measurements…

I also started (and finished) this wool pool yarn.

It was fun to spin, and although it isn’t as soft as some yarn, I could easily make gloves or something similar from this. It’s about 340 yards of three-ply yarn.

I finished this yarn from some top I bought in 2008 when I first started spinning. This merino was VERY squishy, and was easy to spin.

I got 540 yards of three-ply yarn out of this, which surprised the heck out of me. It was only 3.8 ounces to start with. Not sure what I want to make from it, either.

I bought this BFL a couple of years ago, too. It’s slated to become my new watchcap, so I spun it a bit thicker and made it 4-ply to try getting up to worsted weight. I didn’t quite make it (more like DK weight), but it is gloriously soft.

It’s about 340 yards.

Lastly, I finished the Exmoor Mule from my last post. That’s this yarn. It’s only 280 yards, which kind of surprised me, but that’s enough for gloves. I already knit some gloves for myself (should get a picture of them), so I’m not sure what this yarn will become yet.

For the future, this is on my wheel right now:

And this is on the spindle in my office:

February spinning challenge

On Ravelry, there is a group for spinners who use spindles.  While I do have a wheel, which I do use, I do most of my spinning on my spindles.  Ever since I discovered 9-inch shafts on Bosworth spindles, that’s been my most-used spindle.  I probably need more spindles, now that I think of it.

In any case, the Ravelry group has a monthly challenge.  The idea is to start and finish in that month some spinning which is related to the theme.  February’s theme is “New Beginnings”, and I thought that this fiber reminded me of new growth and fertile soil. This is the picture of the braid as it was listed on etsy.

I started spinning it on the first of the month, which puts me within the guidelines for the challenge. I’m already over 1/3 done. This is what it looks like, so far:

The goal is for 3-ply sock yarn. I’m intentionally not worrying about keeping any of the colors aligned when I ply because I think these colors will all mix pleasantly, and if some of the plied yarn does end up with all three plies being the same color, that will also be nice. Good thing I ordered more plying spindles already, because I have the Exmoor Mule I spun last month sitting in a plying ball, ready to go.

That’s this stuff:

That will be three-ply yarn as well. I have decided during these colder days (was 4°F yesterday morning), that I need to make some gloves to keep in my truck. That steering wheel gets cold. Maybe this yarn will be those gloves.

Back-to-school fiber

I try to make stuff each year for my kids to wear. Alaric already got his pair of socks for this year. I just finished these gloves to go with the hat Aurora already got. She shouldn’t expect any Christmas knitting from me.

The gloves were her request. She picked the fiber off etsy.  It looked like this:

I’m a little surprised at how different the two ends of the yarn ended up being.  When I look at this picture of the fiber, though, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

In any case, the gloves ended up being more fraternal than identical.  That’s cool by Aurora, and I kinda like it, too.

The hat also has some handspun in it–the brown stripes.

Now I just need to finish Elenna’s socks and cast on Cambria’s mittens.